Ace Records latest reissues: CD reviews
Here are some more vital recent releases from Ace Records,ÃÂ arguablyÃÂ one of the best reissue labels in the world reviewed byÃÂ Ian Johnston.
1.Various Artists ”â Rock Your Baby ”â 24 Red Hot Rompers Chosen By Mark Lamarr
Mark Lamarr’s presence on Radio 2 is sorely missed.ÃÂ The daring comic and DJ’sÃÂ brilliantÃÂ God’s Jukebox show, with its thrillingly eclectic selection of hidden gems from just about every possible genre of popular music you can think of,ÃÂ from the 1920’s through to the present day, wasÃÂ essentialÃÂ andÃÂ constantlyÃÂ entertainingÃÂ listening.
Those still mourning hisÃÂ absenceÃÂ should get aÃÂ boot outÃÂ of thisÃÂ fabulousÃÂ collection compiled and noted by “children’s favourite uncle”Â Lamarr of “24ÃÂ rollicking, child-friendly offeringsÃÂ guaranteed to satisfy kids of all ages.”ÂÃÂ Of course, thisÃÂ is reallyÃÂ a good excuse for a rollicking compilation ofÃÂ vintageÃÂ R&B, rock ”Ën’ roll, country and calypso numbers with nonsensical lyricsÃÂ ”â which Lamarr delivers by the bucket load.ÃÂ ‘Rock Your Baby’ kicks off in style with R&B legend LouisÃÂ Jordan’sÃÂ 1947 hit ”ËBarnyard Boogie’, before taking in the “unrestrained stupidity”Â of DJ King Coleman’s 1967 ”ËThe Boo Boo Song’,ÃÂ theÃÂ hirsute White Knight Of SoulÃÂ Wayne Cochran‘s bizarre 1963 rock ”Ën’ roll song ”ËMonkey Monkey (You Do It Like This)’ and Johnny Cash’s mean ”ËNasty Dan’, from The Man In Black’s 1975ÃÂ waxingÃÂ The Johnny Cash Children’s Album.ÃÂ
Other highlights include Cliffie Stone’s 1951 country and western swing ditty ”ËJump Rope Boogie’, Lord Flea and his Caplyponians 1951 Caribbean number ”ËNaughty Little Flea’, the R&BÃÂ livingÃÂ legend Andre Williams’ classic 1957 dance craze anthem ”ËThe Greasy Chicken’, actor and former rodeo cowboy Sheb Wooley’s ”ËMonkey Jive’ÃÂ and the 1958 echo drenched ”ËBoppin’ To Grandfather’s Clock’ by Sidney Jo Lewis aka Hardrock Gunter, “That Rockin’ Man From Alabam!”Â If you haven’t got a broad smile on your face by the time this CD finally grinds to a halt, you really should check your pulse.
All this,ÃÂ and a really cool 50’s/early 60’sÃÂ stylechildren’sÃÂ illustration by Nickolas Nelson ofÃÂ aquiffedÃÂ and tattooedÃÂ rockin’ toddler drivingÃÂ an orangeÃÂ souped-up baby carriage.ÃÂ Also,ÃÂ if you do actuallyÃÂ have children, the whacked out Rock Your Baby might just keep the little darlings entertained forÃÂ a whileÃÂ during a long car journey.
2.ÃÂ Takeshi Terauchi ”â Nippon Guitars: Instrumental surf, Eleki & Tsugaru Rock 1966-1974.
As compiler Howard Williams writes in hisÃÂ highly informativeÃÂ liner notes, guitaristÃÂ Takeshi Terauchi is more “an elemental force”Â than a legend”â aunique position forÃÂ a rock musician in Japan. While notÃÂ thatÃÂ well known in the West, he has receivedacclaimÃÂ downÃÂ the years from artists as diverse as The Ventures, Quentin TarantinoÃÂ and Jello Biafra.ÃÂ
An 8th Dan of the Wado school of Karate and a Zen master of the Zuiganji temple, he is also a pioneer in the history of Japanese guitar music, record producer, author and businessman who still finds time to play for charity. Terauchi, nicknamed “Terry”Â by Americans who could not pronounce his name properly,ÃÂ isÃÂ a former hard drinking,guitar-thrashingÃÂ nonconformistÃÂ whoÃÂ governedÃÂ his band with aÃÂ fistÃÂ of ironÃÂ while his free handÃÂ gave the tremolo arm a serious workout. His early recordings date back to the late 1950s, with the country and western outfit Jimmy Tokita and the Mountain Playboys. Now in his early 70s, he isthankfullyÃÂ stillÃÂ recording.ÃÂ
Terauchi has released aÃÂ hugeÃÂ number of records in his long career, embracing country, surf, Hawaiian, rock’n’roll, funk and classical. HeÃÂ traversed the wave of the Eleki explosion, a musical styleencirclingÃÂ surf and beat instrumentals. The Ventures’ first trip to Japan in 1962ÃÂ ignited the movement, although the trend started in earnest in 1964, when Terauchi and media promoter Nabe Pro organised a hugeÃÂ gigÃÂ headlined by the Animals and the Ventures at the Kousei Nenkin Kaikan in Tokyo. This was the year thatÃÂ Takeshi Terauchiand the Blue Jeans released their debut album “Korezo Surfing”Â (Let’s Go Surfing).ÃÂ
Sales of electric guitars in Japan went through the roof.ÃÂ There were several bands playing Eleki ”â notably, according to Williams,ÃÂ the Spacemen and Yuzo Kayama and the Launchers ”â but,ÃÂ equippedwith his custom red Fender Jaguar,ÃÂ Takeshi TerauchiÃÂ and his Blue Jeans led theÃÂ front line.ÃÂ
TerauchiÃÂ correctlyÃÂ rejectsÃÂ insinuationsÃÂ that he wassolelyÃÂ influenced by the Ventures, although they were certainly no hindrance to hisÃÂ meteoricÃÂ rise, and he often played a Mosrite, a gift from the band.His music could only have emanatedÃÂ from Japan, and the tracks on this collectionÃÂ (”ËGinzaÃÂ No Onna’, ”ËAi no Kizuna’ from 1971) provideÃÂ thesubstantiation. Many are versions of traditional Japanese folk songs (Minyo), a style that became much copied. Terauchi’s speedy “shredding”Â technique could be said to echo Tsugaru shamisen, a unique blues-like style of percussive, semi-improvised playing from northern Japan. He revisited some of these standards for his 1974 album “Tsugaru Jongara”Â with the re-formed Blue Jeans.
Nippon Guitars is a fantastic introduction to Takeshi Terauchi’sÃÂ uniqueÃÂ and blisteringÃÂ music. ÃÂ This CD (thankfullyÃÂ alsoÃÂ issued asÃÂ a vinyl release) coversÃÂ of some of the finest beat/surfÃÂ instrumentals(1966’s ”ËHoshi Eno Tabiji (Journey to the Stars)’, ”ËSouth Pier’),ÃÂ late 1960’s BoogalooÃÂ motivatedÃÂ jams(”ËLet’s Go Boogaloo’,’Summer Boogaloo’),traditional–music inspiredÃÂ tunesÃÂ (1967’s ”ËSadoOkesa’)ÃÂ andÃÂ later raw Tsugaru-influencedÃÂ rockworkoutsÃÂ (”ËNambuzaka Yuki No Wakare’ and”ËJiricho Sangokushi’, aÃÂ traditional song concerning an infamous Yakuza gangster Terauchi adapted in 1972)ÃÂ from hisÃÂ extensiveÃÂ andÃÂ diverseÃÂ career.
3.ÃÂ Etta James ”â Losers Weepers With Bonus Tracks
Thankfully, AceÃÂ are continuingÃÂ to releaseÃÂ expanded versions of several ofÃÂ the greatÃÂ Etta James’ÃÂ classic but overlookedÃÂ Argo, Cadet and Chess albums.ÃÂ
CompiledÃÂ by Mick Patrick, with notes by Dennis Garvey, Etta James’ incredible 1970 album ‘Losers Weepers’ÃÂ isÃÂ the latest to receive theÃÂ fullÃÂ Ace treatment, after the recent re-release of the classic 1967 LP ‘Call My Name’ and the fine compilation ‘Etta JamesÃÂ ”âÃÂ Who’s Blue? Rare Chess Recordings Of The 60s & 70s’. ‘Losers Weepers’ reallyÃÂ brings into sharp relief some of herÃÂ greatest music that quickly disappeared when originally released, in part because of James’ÃÂ pretty direÃÂ personal situationÃÂ during this periodÃÂ (the death of her mentor Leonard Chess, trying to raise a baby son,ÃÂ a raging heroin addiction,ÃÂ variousÃÂ drug-related illnesses, disillusionment with fame, arrests and incarceration)ÃÂ butÃÂ mostly because she was regarded by manyÃÂ asÃÂ being a spentÃÂ R&BÃÂ unit shiftingÃÂ force.ÃÂ
EttaÃÂ JamesÃÂ was in prettyÃÂ terribleÃÂ physicalÃÂ shape when she made theseÃÂ devastatingÃÂ recordings, but herÃÂ unbridledÃÂ relianceÃÂ uponÃÂ narcoticsÃÂ astonishingly didÃÂ notÃÂ influenceÃÂ herÃÂ exceptionalÃÂ recordings. ”ËHeavy Soul’ was theÃÂ fashionableÃÂ phraseÃÂ ofÃÂ late 60s/early 70s and theÃÂ powerÃÂ in the two-part title trackÃÂ entirelyÃÂ classifiesÃÂ theÃÂ expression. EttaÃÂ James‘ÃÂ transcendentÃÂ versions ofÃÂ theÃÂ greatÃÂ American songbook standardsÃÂ ”ËI Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, ”ËThe Man I Love’ andÃÂ theÃÂ emotionally grippingÃÂ ”ËFor All We Know’ are the logical continuation of herÃÂ enduringÃÂ late 1960’sÃÂ collaborations withÃÂ theÃÂ talentedÃÂ arranger Riley Hampton,ÃÂ which siredÃÂ theÃÂ agelessÃÂ ‘At Last’ÃÂ album.
On the elevenÃÂ bonus tracks, Etta JamesÃÂ is on equally spirited form. ÃÂ The funky ”ËTighten Up Your Own Thing’ should have been a huge hitÃÂ (”ËQuick Reaction And Satisfaction’ also brings the funk),ÃÂ while herÃÂ revival of the Falcons’ R&BÃÂ masterpiece”ËI Found A Love’ÃÂ matchesÃÂ that of the song’s original singer, Wilson Pickett. AÃÂ 1972 Wah- Wah guitar powered version of James‘ÃÂ 50’s Modern label recordingÃÂ ”ËW.O.M.A.N’ÃÂ brings even more swagger and licentiousness to the materialÃÂ (produced the same year she did time in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison), while ”ËNothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing’ unflinchingly stares into the abyss of total heartbreak.
EttaÃÂ JamesÃÂ is currently seriouslyÃÂ illÃÂ and highly unlikelyÃÂ to everÃÂ recordÃÂ again, butÃÂ providentiallyÃÂ her backÃÂ catalogue is full ofÃÂ masterworks such as ‘Losers Weepers’ÃÂ that willÃÂ ensure her immortality. ÃÂ You really do need this music in your life.
4.ÃÂ Various Artists – The Flash Records Story
Charlie Reynolds was one ofÃÂ theÃÂ numerousÃÂ black entrepreneurs in 1950s Los Angeles who started his own independent record company, hoping to cash in on America’s post-war rhythm and bluesÃÂ trend. As the owner of the popular Flash Record Shop at 623 East VernonÃÂ Avenue,ÃÂ South Los Angeles,ÃÂ he knewÃÂ whatÃÂ teenageÃÂ customersÃÂ were purchasing.ÃÂ FunctioningÃÂ fromÃÂ his back room,ÃÂ ReynoldsÃÂ released 31 blues, R&B,ÃÂ doo-wop, andÃÂ embryonic soul recordsÃÂ between 1955 and 1959. One of themÃÂ (The Jayhawks‘ÃÂ ”ËStranded In The Jungle’)ÃÂ even spent a couple of weeks in theÃÂ national Top 40 charts. YetÃÂ Reynolds soon discovered, the indie record business was, and probably still is,ÃÂ a hustler’s game. TheÃÂ escalatingÃÂ costs of payola and his distributors’ refusal to pay royalties for the last single until the next one sold erodedÃÂ his profit margin. HeÃÂ ultimatelyÃÂ let Flash RecordsÃÂ evaporateintoÃÂ the mistsÃÂ of African American musicÃÂ history.ÃÂ But, as thisÃÂ dynamicÃÂ 2-CD, 60-songÃÂ set evinces, Reynolds had aÃÂ terrificÃÂ run and produced more than hisÃÂ fairÃÂ share ofÃÂ exhilaratingÃÂ andÃÂ laudableÃÂ material.
Noted by Jim DawsonÃÂ with compilation and archive research by Roger Armstrong,ÃÂ The Flash Records StoryÃÂ contains nearly every Flash release ”â most of them on CDÃÂ mastered directly from the original tapesÃÂ for the first time ”â along with a few tracks that remained in the can. GutbucketÃÂ bluesdevoteesÃÂ willÃÂ digÃÂ the blues trio of Sidney MaidenÃÂ (”ËHurry, Hurry, Baby’), Haskell SadlerÃÂ (”ËGone For Good’)ÃÂ and Bee BrownÃÂ (the raunchy ”ËMambo For Dancers’), not to mention singer-guitarist Frank Patt with pianist Gus Jenkins’ bandÃÂ (the powerhouse ”ËJust A Minute Baby’ and the Latin rhythms of the vengeful ”ËYou Going ToÃÂ Pay For It Baby’), and no nonsenseÃÂ female blues singers Sheryl Crowley (the 45. packin’ÃÂ ”ËIt Ain’t To Play With!’)ÃÂ and Mamie JenkinsÃÂ (”ËJump With Me Baby’).ÃÂ There are alsoÃÂ sophisticatedÃÂ blues balladeersÃÂ James CurryÃÂ (”ËStill Longing For You’), Paul CliftonÃÂ (the angry, harmonica powered ”ËAre You Alright?’)ÃÂ and Buddy CypressÃÂ (”ËDon’t Forsake Me (Bop To De Lao)‘), boogie woogie pianist Judge DavisÃÂ (the self explanatory ”ËMr. Boogie’),ÃÂ nascentÃÂ blackÃÂ sex symbolÃÂ Nip RomanÃÂ (”ËDarling I Need You’)ÃÂ and honking tenor saxophonistMauriceÃÂ Simon (the label’s instrumental anthem ”ËFlashy’).ÃÂ
LA’s most popular form of R&B in the 1950s was doo-wop, and Flash’s roster of vocal groups isÃÂ most impressive.ÃÂ The Jayhawks, who wrote and recorded theÃÂ 1956ÃÂ originalÃÂ versionÃÂ ”ËStranded In The Jungle’,ÃÂ one of Flash’s biggest hits and memorably covered byÃÂ The CadetsÃÂ the same year and byÃÂ The New York Dolls in 1974, haveÃÂ all their Flash singlesÃÂ featured andÃÂ their amazing ifÃÂ tumultuousÃÂ storyÃÂ documented. Flash’s other vocal group singles were one-off affairs but no less impressive: the mysterious Emanon 4, with theirÃÂ lingering, gospel influenced harmoniesÃÂ on ”ËBlues For Monday’; The Hornets,ÃÂ fourÃÂ servicemen aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier who drove to Los Angeles during aweekendÃÂ leave and recorded only two songs in a Watts garage studioÃÂ ”â the fantastic ”ËTango Moon’ and ”ËCrying Over You’; The Poets from LA’sÃÂ Jefferson High School, whose ”ËVowels Of Love’ became a popular record several years later during the early 60sÃÂ doo wop revival; andÃÂ a hip supergroupÃÂ of doo wop veterans whoÃÂ named themselvesÃÂ The Cubans. The Cuban’s recordings are soÃÂ extraordinaryÃÂ Ace haveÃÂ included their entire session of five songs, plus an alternate takeÃÂ of the wonderful ”ËYou’ve Been Gone So Long’.ÃÂ Obviously, the collection isÃÂ accompaniedÃÂ byÃÂ aÃÂ large booklet brimmingÃÂ with amazingÃÂ photosÃÂ of The Flash artistsÃÂ and newlyÃÂ revealedÃÂ information.
Ace has always excelled atÃÂ this type of record label overview and The Flash Records Story mustÃÂ be in the upperÃÂ echelons of the packagesthey have created to date.ÃÂ An essential purchase.
5.ÃÂ Various Artists: Dynamic Grooves: Funk And Groovy Soul From The Vaults ofÃÂ Scepter, Wand, Dynamo and Musicor
InÃÂ 1960’s New York both the Scepter, Wand, ÃÂ andÃÂ Dynamo group of labels were at the peak of the independent label scene. They had hit artists from across the whole musicalÃÂ gamut, but with aÃÂ strongÃÂ emphasis onÃÂ soul. By the late 60s, as thatÃÂ soulÃÂ world was starting to be strongly influenced byÃÂ James Brown’s groundbreakingÃÂ funk, they were in a position as establishedÃÂ operatorsÃÂ in theÃÂ businessÃÂ to sign up recordings from all around theÃÂ United StatesÃÂ of America. ‘Dynamic Grooves’,ÃÂ compiled and sleeve noted by Dean Rudland,ÃÂ focuses on the labels’ output providing a snapshot of the scene in which they worked.
ThisÃÂ magnificentÃÂ CD acts as aÃÂ grandÃÂ musical tour of the USA.ÃÂ ‘Dynamic Grooves’ÃÂ beginsÃÂ in New Orleans with several works produced byÃÂ the renownedÃÂ Allen Toussaint including the unbelievableÃÂ ”ËFunky Belly’ by Warren Lee, Earl King’sÃÂ groovyÃÂ ”ËTic Tac Toe’, Johnny Moore’s proto-funk ”ËA Dollar 98′ and Allen’sÃÂ 1970 version ofÃÂ hisÃÂ ownÃÂ greatÃÂ standardÃÂ ”ËWorking In A Coalmine’.ÃÂ
The trip continues. InÃÂ Memphis,ÃÂ Joe Arnold’s hypnoticÃÂ ”ËSoul Trippin”.ÃÂ From the CarolinasÃÂ the blue-eyed funk of the Backyard Heavies‘ ”ËChitlin’ Strut’; Benny Gordon’s backing band the Soul Brothers with theirÃÂ stridentÃÂ ”ËHorsingÃÂ Around’ andfrom Washington DC,ÃÂ ”Ënew man’ÃÂ Harmon Bethea and the Maskmen’sÃÂ outrageousÃÂ 1970ÃÂ grooveÃÂ ”ËShe’s My Meat’.ÃÂ Harmon Bethea’sÃÂ band leader Billy Clark’sÃÂ 1968ÃÂ ”ËSoul PartyÃÂ Part 1‘ is even better,ÃÂ unadulteratedÃÂ boogaloo funkÃÂ guaranteed toÃÂ boost anyÃÂ party. In Philadelphia George Tindley mixes early Motown with late 60s Motown to create a Temptations-like version of Marvin Gaye’s ”ËAin’t That Peculiar’. Chicago provides plenty of funky groovesÃÂ from Betty Moorer, Jerry O and General Crook‘s awe-inspiringÃÂ 1974 funk odyssey ”ËFever In The Funk House’.ÃÂ
Back on Dynamo’sÃÂ home turf,ÃÂ theirÃÂ leading act Charles & Inez Foxx, who perfectly straddle the boundaryÃÂ between funk and soul with their ”Ë(1-2-3-4-5-6-7)ÃÂ Count The Days’, one of several hits they scored for the labelÃÂ during the late 60’sÃÂ when label boss Luther Dixon married Inez. There is also some blisteringÃÂ funk from Little Grady Lewis onÃÂ the 1970 cutÃÂ ”ËSoul Smokin’ÃÂ Part 1‘ and one of the finestÃÂ chunks of Latin funkÃÂ ever recorded–”ËMachine ShopÃÂ Part 2‘ÃÂ by theÃÂ aptly namedÃÂ Untouchable Machine Shop.ÃÂ
Twenty-oneÃÂ tracks ofÃÂ variedÃÂ andÃÂ exhilaratingÃÂ soul and funk music ”âÃÂ Dynamic GroovesÃÂ is the essence ofÃÂ theÃÂ fineÃÂ work doneÃÂ byÃÂ New York’sÃÂ labelsÃÂ finest inÃÂ the lateÃÂ 1960s and earlyÃÂ 1970s.ÃÂ